The Skills and Experience Needed to Become a Criminologist

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, criminologists who are also categorized as sociologists, make up just a small number with only 400 jobs created over a period of 10 years. As such, concrete skills and experience are necessary to land a job in this highly competitive field.

Starting out

You will typically start out as an assistant or junior criminologist and work under the supervision of a senior criminologist for about 1 to 2 years. You will acquire most of the skills and experience required for a career in criminology through on-the-job training. Typically, about 3 to 5 years’ experience is necessary to attain the role of a criminologist.


People with prior experience in criminal justice such as policy analysts, crime analysts, case managers or community safety officers have a better chance at finding employment as criminologists in the public or private sectors. Generally, previous experience in the criminal justice sector is a great stepping-stone toward a career in crime analysis.

Knowledge of public policy

Criminologists are mostly employed in the public service. They work with law enforcement agencies, federal and state security departments, and politicians to develop viable crime prevention and crime reduction policies. A career as a criminologist requires a deep and ongoing understanding of issues pertaining to security, crime, social behavior, law enforcement, social perceptions, existing policies and how these can be used in policy development to mitigate crime, and protecting the rights of those who are convicted.

Solid research and information management skills

A criminologist’s career primarily entails gathering data, compiling information from multiple sources, analyzing statistics and formulating hypothesis about various social and behavioral issues that relate to crime. Research takes place in the office and in the field as well. Criminologists are academically inclined – they have concrete research skills, an ability to understand and integrate vast amounts of data, and a mathematical aptitude to analyze statistics and develop formulae to explain sociological phenomena. Excellent writing skills are also necessary especially with regard to drafting reports and policy proposals.

Analytical and investigative skills

Like a journalist, criminologists require the skill to interview diverse subjects including convicted criminals, law enforcement officers, suspects, families, juveniles and community leaders to give conclusive recommendations on the causes of crime and ways to mitigate criminal incidences. Investigative skills are particularly important in forensic inquiries, autopsies or crime scene analysis.

Gaining experience

Whether you are a recent college graduate or you are contemplating a career change to criminology, a viable way to gain experience is through volunteer and internship opportunities. Law enforcement and criminal justice organizations such as police departments, sheriff’s offices, social research departments, juvenile courts, domestic abuse shelters, and drug-counseling centers all provide excellent opportunities for gaining the prerequisite experience needed to start your career.

If you are excited about intellectual challenges and are keen on bettering the criminal justice system in your own way, a career in criminology could be a fulfilling one. However, years of acquiring experience and perfecting your skills are necessary to attain the role of a criminologist in the public or private service.

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